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Interview: Gildart Jackson on ‘Fireside Reading’

Since the lockdown began, Charmed and Whodunnit star Gildart Jackson has been reading one chapter of Charles Dicken’s classic novel ‘Great Expectations’ a day in his ‘Fireside Reading’ series on Instagram and Youtube.

We chatted with the actor to find out more about the new project, which other books he’d pick, along with what’s next in the pipeline.

1. So what’s the concept behind fireside reading? 

I imagined that many people must be very lonely when we are all stuck at home and so I wanted to do something that would provide companionship and little warmth and entertainment to those who might need it in difficult times. So I decided that during the coronavirus pandemic I would offer a free Fireside Reading of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. A chapter a day. Live recording daily at 5pm PST @firesidereading on Instagram. Each chapter re-broadcast for free on the Fireside Reading channel on YouTube.  

2. Where did the idea come from?

I read my first audiobook to my Dad, when he was old and not well, at home in front of the fire. It was the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I wanted to try to recreate that old world feel in the modern world of the internet. This is the way Dickens was actually initially consumed, with the family in the living room reading his books in installments. I figured it would be a warm and gentle way to be entertained in troubling times. 

3. How has the response been to the Instagram live sessions so far?

The response has been wonderful. I have received so much support from young and old alike saying that it has become a little part of their day. Waiting to hear what happens in Great Expectations today. That is the idea behind it. Simple old-world companionship as we are all locked in our homes. It is lovely to do it and to know that for some people it is helping them through the isolation.

4. Which other books would you pick if you did more ‘Fireside Reading’?

The response has been so great in fact that I’ve received requests! Some parents of kids that are a little young for Great Expectations begged me to do something to occupy their little ones! I think they were attracted to the simplicity of the entertainment, not wanting to sit their kids down in front of a whizzbang kids video but wanting something a little gentler. So I have recorded Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit for them and kids can follow along with the book online.  

After that any of the classics will work. These are the pinnacle of literature and the books are inherently so good and have stood the test of time so long that you can just get lost listening to great literature as it is read to you every day. The world is our oyster!

5. What has been your favourite audio book to narrate so far?

Definitely Dickens. I have done Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities. In the world of modern books, I especially enjoy the D.C. Smith novels of Peter Grainger – this is a detective mystery series that is very exciting, very English, and filled with magnificent characters.   

6. Have you been watching any other live streams or watch-a-longs since the lockdown began?

I watched the One World benefit concert and thoroughly enjoyed it.  

7. What’s next in the pipeline for you?

I’m going to keep reading Great Expectations until the book is finished (59 chapters) so hopefully we will all be out and about before the end but I promised to read the whole book and I will. After that I’m shooting a motion capture video game – very hush hush! – I’m continuing to voice Flyseyes in Netflix’s “Castevania” and can always be seen as Ian Carlyle in Freeform’s “The Bold Type”.  

Check out the live recording daily at 5 p.m. PST @firesidereading on Instagram. Each chapter re-broadcasts for free over on the Fireside Reading channel on YouTube.